Max Raccoon should have been in bed asleep, but his teacher Miss Maybelle Badger had given him an essay to write, and he hadn’t gotten very far into the assignment. One sentence was all he had, and the paper was due on Miss Badger’s desk at 9am sharp.
While Max sat on his bed, lamenting school work and essays, a rustle outside caught his ear. Peering through the window, he noticed his big brother, Bandit, easing his limber body down a tree propped against their house – it had fallen over during a recent storm, but no one had much time to gnaw it up and set the logs aside for winter fires.
“Bandit! Where are you going?” Max hissed out the window. “Pa said you couldn’t step outside this house for forty years!”
“You be quiet!” Bandit snarled. “I’ve got some business to take care of and I don’t have time for you to go messing things up and waking him!”
“Where are you going?” wondered Max again.
“”I’m meeting up with Snazz and Jaxx,” his brother replied. “Now go do your homework and leave me alone.”
Bandit knew his brother would not be awake at ten-thirty if he didn’t have an assignment looming over his head.
Max watched Bandit plop to the ground and brush off his paws. His brother was always taking exciting and daring adventures during the night. Of course, many of these excursions also caused him a good deal of grief when Pa would inevitably discover that his eldest son was sneaking out and perusing neighborhoods where they were forbidden to go. Humans lived there. Pa wanted them to stay away, but Bandit was drawn to their treasures which they stored in bins beside their homes. Max suspected his brother was planning to do a little “bargain” shopping tonight.
“Can I come?” he asked Bandit, who was slowly tip-toeing through the backyard.
“No,” whispered Bandit. Shut your window and go away!”
“If you don’t let me come with you, I’m going to wake Dad and tell him what you’re doing,” Max leveraged, knowing this would surely change his brother’s mind.
Bandit glared at Max and then sighed.
“Fine, but if you say one word about this to anyone, I’ll make your life a living hell, do you understand?”
Max wasn’t even listening. He was too busy trying to wiggle his pudgy body through the window without making a sound.
Together, the brothers crept from the backyard and scurried to meet Snazz and Jaxx at a trail that led to the human area. Bandit didn’t say where they were going, or what their adventure entailed, and Max knew better than to ask.
“What’s he doing here?” Snazz demanded when he noticed Max.
“Doesn’t matter,” replied Bandit. “I told him I’d kick him to the moon if he speaks a word of this to anyone. Let’s go. We don’t have a lot of time.”
The raccoons raced each other down the trail, which opened into a large, green lawn, blanketed in freshly cut grass. An odd metal contraption with a board suspended in the air by chains was parked nearby.
Bandit and Snazz led the group to the side of a brick building further down the grass clearing. Three plastic bins stood guard, but said nothing as the boys approached them. Bandit and Snazz crouched down, interlocking their paws to give Jaxx a boost onto the first bin, while Max watched in wonder and awe. So this is how it’s done, he thought to himself. This is how my brother finds all his treasure. Atop the bin, Jaxx examined the clasp which had locked the lid to its stout body. Jaxx was an expert with these locks, and within seconds he had the first lid open and was jumping onto the second bin.
Bandit and Snazz pushed a nearby footstool toward the bin and use it to climb onto its edge. Their weight startled the large plastic container, and as they teetered back and forth, struggling to balance themselves, Snazz toppled forward and landed with a thud in the trash. Jaxx covered his mouth to hide a laugh, but Max couldn’t stop himself…until he was abruptly shushed by Bandit. Max glanced toward a window on the side of the brick box and wondered if anyone had heard them. That’s when he noticed the noise coming from inside the house. While his brother and friends were distracted, searching through fruit rinds and tissue paper, Max edged his way to the window and sneaked a peak inside.
A large man reclined in a chair and listened to sounds which appeared to come from a box perched on the table beside him. The man’s eyes were closed, and every so often, he hummed along with the tune on the box. This was the closest Max had ever been to a human; for all the bad things his Pa said about people, this one didn’t seem so bad. He appeared almost nice.
A heavy crash startled Max – and then he noticed is had stunned the man, too. Jaxx had tossed a heavy object on the grass, but in doing so, he had fallen as well, and this time brought the bin down with him. Food scraps and plastic bits flooded from the bin’s cavity onto the ground. Through the window, Max watched the hefty man grab a rifle and stagger toward the door.
“Run!” he alerted Bandit and his friends, and instinctively bolted for the trail, hoping his brother was close behind.
“You damn raccoons!” he heard the man yell. “I’m gonna get every last one of you, if it’s the last thing I do, you hear?”
Max heard gunshots pierce the air, but Bandit, Jaxx, and Snazz were already by his side, and the four boys scrambled into the forest; when they were at a safe distance from the trail, they slowed, then stopped.
Max, eyes shining bright, said, “Thanks for bringing me along, guys! This was the most fun I’ve ever had!”
– Written June 2012.